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Arne Duncan Calls for 'Demanding Parents,' in NAACP Talk

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The U.S. has a shortage of demanding parents.

So says Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, speaking today in Washington, D.C. at the release of the NAACP's blueprint for education reform called, "Finding Our Way Back to First: Reclaiming World Leadership by Educating All America's Children."

"One of the countries out-educating us by every measure is South Korea," Duncan said, explaining that when President Barack Obama meets the President of South Korea, Obama routinely asks, "What's your biggest educational challenge?"

The answer from Lee Myung-bak is this: "My parents are too demanding. Even my poorest parents demand a world class education," according to Duncan.

As a result, English is taught in 1st grade in that nation, because South Korean parents are unwilling to wait until 2nd grade for their children to begin learning the language.

"I wish we had more demand. I wish we had a lot more parents ... demanding a world-class education—not just on the policy side, but on the advocacy side," Duncan told a gathering at the release of the NAACP's report.

"We have a 25 percent dropout rate in this country—a million young kids leaving our schools for our streets each year. ... Our goal has to be to go from 25 percent to zero as fast as we can," Duncan said.

The NAACP created its report as a resource and road map for creating just the sort of demand Duncan described. It highlights four areas for proactive education reform to ensure that, upon graduation, all American students are college- ready and/or career-ready. The four "pillars" identified by the NAACP are:

  • Prekindergarten preparation for achievement, with high-quality, universal prekindergarten to support readiness, and strong literacy and language development;
  • Effective teaching, with a prepared, supported, and effective teacher in every classroom;
  • More time for more learning, allowing for longer school days and more years of education to extend learning opportunities; and,
  • Spending targeted for widespread success, with smart investments supporting the neediest students.

In her remarks supporting the report at the NAACP ceremony, Alma J. Powell, chair of America's Promise Alliance, focused on the words "national" and "advancement" from the host organization's founding name: the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

"You cannot talk about advancement in America without talking about education. ... Advancement requires education, not just for children of color, but for all children, not just for individual families, but for all American families. It is the secret of our success," she said.

The full report is available on the NAACP's website.

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